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In the months leading up to next Saturday's opener at 8th-ranked Clemson followed by the SEC opener against South Carolina, there have naturally been a number of comparisons between what this year's Bulldog team is about to see compared to what they faced in 2011.
The memories aren't necessarily pleasant ones.
In 2011, Georgia dropped a 34-21 decision to Boise State at the Georgia Dome before losing a shootout a home to South Carolina, 45-42.
"They just lined up and whipped us. I don't think it had anything to do with us being hyped, or not hyped; they just lined up and beat us," head coach Mark Richt said of the loss to Boise. "If you're talking to anybody who is still here from two years ago, they were probably young players, maybe hyped more than they would normally be today. But the more veteran team you have, the more I think they can handle it."
Senior tight end Arthur Lynch agrees.
Although he knows the Tigers are quite likely every bit as potent as the Broncos that night in Atlanta, he's counting on the experience of this year's offense making a huge difference.
"Everyone's been comparing that game to this game, but I think the nature - not just of the team, but this program - is completely different than what it was two years ago," Lynch said. "I think our backs were so much against the wall that we didn't have that confidence."
This time, Lynch says the opposite is true.
"It's not like we're overlooking Clemson, we know they're tough, but we also know what it takes to win games against a ranked opponent, against any opponent," Lynch said. "That's the difference (in 2011 and 2013). We have that level of confidence. We know it's going to be a hostile environment. We've just go to stay level-headed and not let the atmosphere consume our emotions. We do that, we should be in good shape."
Richt's got his fingers crossed.
However, he knows that nerves will still no doubt play a role - at least early on - in what's sure to be a raucous crowd at Memorial Stadium.
That will especially be true for the freshmen and other first-year players who will be playing in their first collegiate game, one that's being televised nationally on ABC (8 p.m.).
"There's going to be a lot of that going through some guys' minds. Even us as coaches, doing it as many years as we do it, you still get your adrenalin pumping, your blood flowing and you're still very uncertain with what you're going to see," Richt said. "We know what we have, but we don't know how it's going to compare or how it's going to match up to Clemson, South Carolina and all that sort of thing. It's a pretty special time for everybody."
Theus ready for whatever comes
Sophomore John Theus he's be getting some reps at right guard, but said Friday he's not sure if that means he'll be lining up there at any point against the Tigers.
"There's no real set rotation we have right now," Theus said. "Coach (Will) Friend has not said what he's going to do, but if he puts me in, I'll be comfortable with it. I'll be fine."
Senior Chris Burnette is expected to start at right guard, with either Theus or Kolton Houston to open at right tackle.
Even if Theus starts, Richt said Friday that Houston will certainly play, meaning it's quite conceivable that Theus could then slide over to right guard to give Burnette a breather for a series or two.
"I don't know if he'll (Houston) start, but he's going to play for sure," Richt said.
Scott-Wesley feels like a different receiver
Compared to how he felt this time a year ago, wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley[/d]b said his confidence is night and day.
"I feel I can play with the best of them," said Scott-Wesley, who last year caught six passes for 135 yards and one touchdowns, most of his damage coming in the later part of the year.
The former Mitchell County standout is expected to be part of what could be as many as an nine-man receiver rotation for the Bulldogs this fall.
"Any depth is a good problem to have, especially we you run the things we like to do," Scott Wesley said. "You don't want to get guys too winded with too many snaps. We're a fast-paced offense, so with what we like to do, it's good to have some depth."
Cornerback [db]Sheldon Dawson returned to full practice for the first time in three days, but several key members of the Bulldog secondary remained on the sideline.
Included were safeties Tray Matthews (left hamstring strain), Corey Moore (right knee sprain) and Shaquille Fluker, who was in green but was able to get in some limited work, albeit with no contact.
In the case of Matthews, Richt conceded it has set the Bulldogs back not to have the Newnan native on the field.
"It's a setback not to be there. Part of it will determined when he actually does get back and how many reps he gets prior to the kickoff. That's something for Coach (Todd) Grantham and Coach (Scott) Lakatos to get some type of feel on and make a decision," Richt said. "We hope he's healthy enough to play. We think there's a good chance of that but how much practice time prior to that, I don't know what he's going to get so it's hard to say what his role is going to be."
Wideout receiver Jonathon Rumph (left hamstring strain) also missed another day while freshman Tramel Terry also missed a second straight day with a left knee contusion.
"I think Leonard's going to play, early and middle late. He has practiced well enough for us to feel like we've got get him into the game. Whether he's a starter, or exactly where he plays, that may change as the game goes along, but we're going to get him into the game. All our special team's coaches love him, too. He can run
I don't exactly know what he thinks about it all the time, but when you watch him, the perception he gives you through his body language and his energy is that he really loves football. He enjoys practice, he can't help but practice hard and try to do what Coach tells him to do. He's really a neat kid." - Richt on Leonard Floyd.
"If you draw up a fullback in our system, you just about draw him up. He's at least 265, maybe bigger, very athletic, he's got some good running skills and can catch the ball pretty good." - Richt on fullback Quayvon Hicks.
This and that
According to wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, he will be returning kicks and punts for the Bulldogs this year. The Valdosta native also tabbed Damian Swann as a potential punt return candidate.
The Bulldogs worked out for 90 minutes in shorts Friday afternoon in what was one of the hotter sessions for Georgia in recent days. "When it turns hot and humid, it affects your body, and I was proud of the way the guys pushed through it and got better today," Richt said. "I've been looking at the weather pattern, and during warm-ups next week the forecast is for it to still be in the low 80s and very humid. Even if it's 78 at kickoff, that's still relatively warm. If you factor in the humidity, it will test everybody." Richt said the Bulldogs will have a short practice on Saturday, followed by a full pads workout on Monday. Said Richt, "We hope to get everybody's legs back under them and be as healthy as we can be. I don't think we'll tackle again until the game. I want us to be as fresh as possible."
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